Brittany’s rugged west coast harbours secrets past and present, as surfers, art buffs and a smart yachting set drop anchor along its legend-flecked, jewel-toned shores.
The westernmost region of Brittany, Finistère, is a country and culture shaped by the sea. The name translates as ‘end of the earth’, but it is a boundary in constant negotiation. Broad, dyke-defended tracts of land, shifting dune-fields and boulder-strewn fjords comprise an intricate littoral landscape that accounts for a quarter of France’s coastline. Legend insists on a sea waiting its chance. The drowned city of Ys, lost forever when the king’s daughter swapped the keys of the dyke for a night of passion with the devil, is said to lie in the bay of Douarnenez.
Getting here, however, has never been easier. In less than the time it takes to drive to Cornwall, you can find yourself in remarkably similar countryside, with quieter roads and emptier beaches. 20km downriver, Sainte-Marine is an old-money yachting port, a tasteful scatter of sloping lawns and granite villas at the mouth of the Odet. Les Trois Rochers is a serious establishment, with cooking that is both exact and adventurous. (Chef Frédéric Claquin scores two red forks from Michelin and two chef’s hats from Gault et Millau.) The €57 menu (expensive by local standards but not in comparison to the rest of France) was faultless. However, a dessert of gros lait, more delicate than yogurt, less bland than fromage frais, came laid out like a dolly’s tea party, with strawberries and little dabs of basil reduction so densely aromatic you could taste it before the spoon reached your mouth!!!!